Processing load imposed by line breaks in English temporal Wh-questions

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© 2016 Hirotani, Terry and Sadato. Prosody plays an important role in online sentence processing both explicitly and implicitly. It has been shown that prosodically packaging together parts of a sentence that are interpreted together facilitates processing of the sentence. This applies not only to explicit prosody but also implicit prosody. The present work hypothesizes that a line break in a written text induces an implicit prosodic break, which, in turn, should result in a processing bias for interpreting English wh-questions. Two experiments-one self-paced reading study and one questionnaire study-are reported. Both supported the "line break" hypothesis mentioned above. The results of the self-paced reading experiment showed that unambiguous wh-questions were read faster when the location of line breaks (or frame breaks) matched the scope of a wh-phrase (main or embedded clause) than when they did not. The questionnaire tested sentences with an ambiguous wh-phrase, one that could attach either to the main or the embedded clause. These sentences were interpreted as attaching to the main clause more often than to the embedded clause when a line break appeared after the main verb, but not when it appeared after the embedded verb.




Hirotani, M., Terry, J. M., & Sadato, N. (2016). Processing load imposed by line breaks in English temporal Wh-questions. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(OCT).

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